Since I started styling my textured hair more frequently and straightening it less often last year, there was something that I noticed about the curly advice out there: Curl gels kind of get a bad rap. Whenever I’d reach out to people for styling advice, they would recommend a curl cream to coax definition into my hair rather than a gel. Yes, using curl gels in the wrong way can lead to crispy, crunchy or stringy curls, but—trust me—adding a curl gel has been the best thing for my styling routine.
For me, I like to use gels when I'm doing my braid- and twist-outs for any hope of getting definition into my thick, coily hair. And if you like to wash and go, then you can actually apply most curl gels to wet hair and work them through with a Denman brush or while you finger-coil. Personally, creams have never given me enough hold thanks to their high moisture content, but if you're worried about gels leaving your strands feeling parched, then press in a light oil before your hair dries to seal moisture in.
But which are the best gels to try for your bounciest, most defined curls ever? Ahead, keep scrolling for 16 of the very best gels for curly hair.
#1: Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Scrunching Jelly
#2: Imbue Curl Empowering Crème Gel
#3: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel
Got hair that doubles at the first hint of moisture? You’ll love this anti-humidity gel from Ouidad. It’s a runny texture but sets coils and curls in place without looking stringy. Plus, it protects from UV rays, so it’s a good pick for holidays (when we can go on them again, anyway).
#4: Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker Curling Jelly
#5: Eco Style Olive Oil Styling Gel
#6: Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel
This gel is specifically great for twist-outs. It locks in your style and calms any frizz that normally crops up between washdays.
#7: Bumble and Bumble Curl Anti-Humidity Gel Oil
#8: Bouclème Super Hold Styler
#9: Living Proof Curl Defining Gel
#10: DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel
#11: Shea Moisture Raw Shea & Cupuaçu Frizz Defense Gel Cream
#12: Twisted Sista Amazing Dream Curls
#13: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel
There's no risk of stiff, unmovable curls with this gel. It's a premium option, but when it dries, the hold is naturally flexible with definition. The rice amino acids in the formula soften texture while the quinoa extract strengthens hair so it's ready for styling.
#14: KeraCare Defining Custard
#15: Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Defining Gel Crème
#16: Oribe Curl Gelée
Most gels should be used on wet hair, but this one sits better on damp coils. When it dries, it gives medium hold with a natural feel thanks to the avocado butter, apricot and macadamia oils.